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Jim's Book: This Gaming Life

I received a hardback copy of my book earlier this week, which is apparently an indication that it’s finally getting released, a couple of weeks late. Apologies to all those people who ordered it and expected their copy to arrive at the end of May, I have no idea why it was delayed. It looks like the UK and Euro distribution could take another couple of weeks, but the US copies should start turning up right about now. It’s in stock at Amazon.com.

Being a first time author has been an interesting experience. This page on Amazon.co.uk is particular interesting, as it shows random vendors selling it from anywhere between £7.50 and £127.59. If anyone went for the £127 copy, I suspect my cut would be fairly similar to that from the £7.50 version. Assuming you can actually get it £7.50. (And if you do want to spend over £100 on it, you can buy a signed copy directly from me…)

Anyway! Links, thoughts, and reviews beyond the jump.

The hardback version of the book, which is what is on sale now, is absolutely beautiful. I can say without any reservation that it is the most impressive, exquisite thing that I’ve created in my life. Thumbing through it is a weird, unsettling experience: at once utterly familiar and strangely alien. I’ve been in print for the best part of a decade, but seeing my words in the covers of a beautifully designed hardback book is still a peculiar thing. Of course after two years living with the text I’m also feeling like my own worst critic. I’m vaguely tempted to author a review of Mr Rossignol’s book, since I’m in an excellent position to tear down his arguments, underline his infelicities of style, and demonstrate where he was lazy or stupid.

Thankfully the actual critics have been reasonably forgiving, including this 8/10 in Wired. “Unless we want the future of entertainment to be regulated into Happy Consumer brand infomercials and stick-and-hoop games in full pads on Astroturf, we’ll need more books like this one,” says Nate Ralph. My friends over at Boing Boing were also fairly positive. Joel Johnson: “The book’s lack of an overarching Gladwellian thesis could be a weakness, but is also a strength: In the welcome post-hyperbolic mode of modern games journalism, the ability to make sweeping proclamations about gaming’s hypothetical effect on society fade to more subtle, even murky reports of the real lives, relationships, and opinions forged and shattered by videogames every day.”

Gaming folk were also kind in their conclusions on the book. Raph Koster said: “This Gaming Life is a fascinating and eye-opening look into the real human impact of gaming culture. Traveling the globe and drawing anecdotes from many walks of life, Rossignol takes us beyond the media hype and into the lives of real people whose lives have been changed by gaming. The results may surprise you.”

And New Yorker staff writer John Seabrook was also lovely: “This is a wonderfully literate look at gaming cultures, which you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy. The Korea section blew my mind.”

Kotaku also interviewed me about the book, over here.

That interview touches on something that has stuck with me since the writing of the book, and that’s the need to write more, at length. I know there’s this terrible impulse toward system building tied up with writing that includes any kind of theory and analysis, but I have come away from this project with a far better understanding of how a large canvas allows me to work with larger ideas, over longer periods of time. It’s far more of a challenge to juggle 80,000 words worth of material in your mind than it is the succinct 1000-word pieces I usually bash out, but the result can be far more satisfying. It’s a journey rather than a glimpse, and, in this book at least, the greater space has allowed me room to connect otherwise unconnected ideas, and try to sketch out the significance of things that I’d only examined in isolation previously. In short, writing a book as given me a taste for longer, tougher projects. I hope to talk a bit more about what I’ve been working on since the book was finished later in 2008.

Clearly I would love for you folks to all buy a copy of This Gaming Life. It’s been about the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I think you’ll enjoy some of the results. The US version can be ordered from here. And the UK/Euro version should be available soon over here.

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Jim Rossignol

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